Destination NSW: Wombeyan Caves
Wombeyan Caves is located 180km south of Sydney in the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve. It offers a selection of guided and self guided tours, allowing visitors to experience the unique limestone formations of the Wombeyan Caves system.
Wombeyan Caves were discovered in 1828 by a party led by John Oxley and John Macarthur. Oxley, who died later that year at the age of 42, was responsible for much of the early exploration of the Southern Highlands. Macarthur, had accompanied Oxley in the hope that he would find suitable new grazing lands.
The party camped near the site of the present kiosk. During the night the horses strayed downstream and the subsequent search led the explorers to the Victoria Arch entrance to the Fig Tree Cave. The journals of the journey make no mention of the explorers entering the cave.
In 1842, Reverend Denning was the first European to explore the Fig Tree Cave. However it wasn¹t until 1865, with the appointment of Charles Chalker as first caretaker, that the system was explored in any detail.
Chalker discovered some nine major caves. Today the Basin Cave, Tinted Cave, Glass Cave, Forest Creek Cave, Guineacor Cave and Grant¹s Cave, many of which are inaccessible, are closed to the public for reasons of preservation.
On your way into the caves you will pass through a single lane Sandstone tunnel. The tunnel is about 22m long. The Wombeyan Caves Road tunnel links the Old Hume Highway, Mittagong to Guilburn-Oberon Road, Richlands.
A plaque at the eastern end of the tunnel reads:
"This tunnel was completed during 1899 as part of a new tourist road linking the southern highlands to Wombeyan Caves. Officially opened on 29 January 1900, the road was originally named Duprez Road in honour of Adolphe Prosper Duprez of Bowral who was the driving force behind its construction.”
Kangaroos laying in the shade around the campsite
Wombeyan Caves camping ground is the best location to pitch a tent or bring your caravan. With 100 camping sites, 4 of them are powered sites, there is plenty of room to spread out with family and friends. The camp site has all the facilities any camper or glamper needs from an amenities block with showers and toilets, barbecue facilities & drinking water.
There is a cost to stay within the park, so be sure to check out the NSW National Parks price list before heading down.
Inside the Fig Tree Cave
If you're not getting dirty while caving you will probably like the self-guided tour of the Fig Tree Cave.
This cave is Australia's premier self-guided cave. Infrared sensors at certain points of the cave that controls lighting and commentary. Well decorated, it features several huge chambers and towering formations, fasincating views of the underground creek and the magnificent of Victorian Arch.
It is worth remembering that prior to 1928 all visitors were issued with a candle and the guide pointed out main features with a magnesium flare.
The Fig Tree Cave was originally opened to the public in the 1870's but was closed by 1928, to reopen again in 1968.
The Fig Tree Cave is an easy walkthrough cave for all ages. It's open daily from 9am - 4pm. Allocate an easy 1 hour to do this round trip
But as clean faced as I look I don’t mind getting down and dirty. Guided tours of the four others caves are available between 10am and 4pm everyday and range in different durations.
1. Wollondilly Cave
The Wollondilly Cave (Aboriginal for 'running water over stones') was discovered by Charles Chalker in 1865 and opened to the public in 1885. It is regarded by many as the best of the five caves. A guided tour of the cave takes about 1.5 hours.
2. Kooringa Cave
The Kooringa (Aboriginal for King) Cave was discovered by Charles Chalker in 1865 and opened to the public in 1875, although only a small cave - the tour lasts an hour - its stalictights and stalagmites are outstanding.
3. Mulwaree Cave
The Mulwaree Cave was discovered in 1865 and opened in 1885. It has spectacular stalactites close to the pathways which have led the guides to call it the Connoisseur's Cave. Mulwaree is said to be Aboriginal for chain of ponds.
4. Junction Cave
The Junction Cave was discovered by T.M. Chalker in 1897 and opened to the public in 1906. 1.2 km from the kiosk it takes an hour and a half to inspect. Formations called Chalkers Blanket, The Rapids and the Grand Column are regarded as highlights.
Check with the campsite store for departure times and prices.
If a cool down and a swim is what you're after, head down to the Tined Cave on Mares Forest Creek. Surrounded by towering slabs of Limestone, swim in the refreshing freshwater river. If you're feeling a little adventurous pop on some shoes and follow the river upstream to admire the sheer scale of this limestone canyon.
If you're thinking of doing the Figtree Cave, head down to the river first and take a nice picnic to enjoy while you lay on the bank of the river.
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